Made by BBC Studios, the prime time hit Silent Witness returns to BBC One this January. The longest running British crime drama currently airing on TV, the series follows a team of forensic pathologists helping police solve murders using clues found on the bodies of the victims – the silent witnesses.
Emilia Fox, Richard Lintern, David Caves and Liz Carr return as the dynamic Lyell unit, for five new topical thrilling two-part contemporary stories set against the familiar landscapes of London.
Moment Of Surrender (episodes one and two)
Written by Ed Whitmore, Directed by Charles Palmer
When Nikki’s (Emilia Fox) pathologist friend Sally Vaughn (Emma Fielding) disappears, suspicion falls on her colleague, David Cannon (Julian Rhind-Tutt), who is invited to work at the Lyell while police investigate Sally’s disappearance. Nikki is tasked with keeping close watch over his movements as his behaviour becomes increasingly erratic.
Duty Of Candour (episodes three and four)
Written by Matthew Arlidge, Directed by Destiny Ekaragha
A series of tragic events are linked to the hacking of a hospital database and the subsequent blackmailing of patients in return for silence over their guilty secrets.
A Special Relationship (episodes five and six)
Written by Graham Mitchell, Directed by Diarmuid Goggins
A US Diplomat is shot dead in a central London square, forcing Nikki (Emilia Fox), Jack (David Caves), Clarissa (Liz Carr) and Thomas (Richard Lintern) to work closely with the Embassy and the FBI to overcome jurisdictional hurdles.
One Day (episodes seven and eight)
Written by Timothy Prager, Directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan
A road traffic accident leads to the Lyell team uncovering a large number of abuse cases in a group of homes providing assisted living to those with disabilities. The team – Clarissa in particular – has to fight not only for justice but against prejudice and discrimination.
Family (episodes nine and ten)
Written by Michael Crompton, Directed by Colin Teague
It’s Christmas morning and Nikki, Jack, Thomas and Clarissa are just settling down for their respective festive celebrations when they are interrupted by a call-out to a family home – and the horrific aftermath of a shooting spree.
INTERVIEW WITH EMILIA FOX
What stories can we expect from this series of Silent Witness?
The series opens with an episode written by Ed Whitmore, which deals with what’s happened to the Lyell team in the aftermath of Nikki and Jack’s return from Mexico, where they thought Nikki had been buried alive.
Nikki is desperate to return to work and becomes involved in the case of a missing colleague, where the main suspect, David Cannon [Julian Rhind-Tutt] is invited to work at the Lyell so that the authorities can keep him under surveillance. The episode turns into a cat-and-mouse thriller between Nikki and David: she thinks he is guilty, but can’t be totally certain because she is still affected by paranoia and trauma following her experience in Mexico.
While the Silent Witness stories normally stand alone in a series, we do have some continuity for the regulars to follow (dealing with the events that happened in Mexico). Each crime story still takes the regulars into a different world. The second episode explores an extremely topical subject – the tragic events linked to the hacking of a hospital database and subsequent blackmailing of the patients. The third episode is a whodunnit about the shooting of a US diplomat in London and how the Lyell team have to work with the U.S. Embassy and FBI to overcome jurisdictional hurdles. It is about the special relationship between the UK and the U.S and it also becomes a love story!
Clarissa leads the fourth episode, which starts with a road traffic accident that leads to the team uncovering abuse cases in a home that provides assisted living to those with disabilities and it results in the team fighting for justice and against prejudice and discrimination. It’s great to have Charlie Creed Miles in the series and it introduces two new actors Rosie Jones and Toby Friedman. This episode is massively important to the series because the audience have long requested to see Clarissa more involved in storylines and Tim Prager, who writes many of our issue-led storylines, has championed this as an important and relevant subject for Silent Witness to explore.
The last episodes complete the arc of where the series began. The episodes are called Family, which is an action-led episode and focuses on the complicated family who the case is about, but also sees the team find their way back to each other. You see each of them independent of each other at Christmas and yet brought together by the mystery and crime they try to solve, which I think is really the heart of Silent Witness.
How is Nikki recovering after her experience in Mexico?
After thinking she was going to die, Nikki’s realised that she’s been given a second chance to live and appreciate life – I thought it was essential to refer to that. She is eager to start work and return to normal, but she is being told to stay away from work and Jack won’t return her calls and is distancing himself from her because of his guilt at not being able to save her. This leaves Nikki feeling purposeless and isolated from the Lyell team family. This series explores Nikki post trauma, feeling very unsettled and alone with this vulnerability. She is paranoid and still having flashbacks from Mexico.
Tell us about Nikki’s new love interest Matt Garcia (played by Michael Landes)
In this series you see Nikki begin a relationship with the U.S. ambassador to London, Matt Garcia, who is played by Michael Landes. It is significant for many reasons, most of all because it is the first proper relationship we have seen her in for many years – particularly since Harry, with their will they/won’t they relationship. You see Nikki want to commit to a relationship at last and it is in the aftermath of looking at life and her relationships post what happened to her in Mexico. It also enables Nikki to move forward from the trauma and to finally find happiness in her personal life. Who knows for how long it will be, but it was lovely to play Nikki having something to smile about again.
Last year was the series’ 20th anniversary. Were you happy with the reaction from fans, particularly to the Mexico episodes?
Last year was such an exciting milestone for Silent Witness, and it was an absolute joy to hear about people’s reaction to the series and particularly to the last episode where the audience seemed to care about what happened to Nikki. I care about the series so much and it is the absolute best when you know that the audience are enjoying it too – they are who we make it for. It made it even more of a pleasure to come back for series 21, to see what happens to Nikki and the rest of the Lyell team and to get involved with some more cases that I always find fascinating, both personally and professionally.
Tell us about the guest stars of this series.
One of the joys of Silent Witness is getting to make five two-hour films each series, which means we get to go into five different worlds, where the bodies and cases take us, and it means we get to work with five different guest casts.
This series opens with a fantastic cast including Julian Rhind Tutt and Emma Fielding, both of whom I have worked with on plays; Pippa Bennett Warner, Pete Sullivan, Alex MacQueen, Susannah Fielding, David Bamber, Kelly Hunter and Alan David to name a few! We have Neil Stuke coming back in the last episode to reprise his role as Detective Cooke from a few series ago. We have amazing actors like Michael Landes, Elliot Levy, Sharon D Clarke, Charlie Creed Miles, Nitin Ganatra, Ian Burfield, Natasha Little, Tanya Franks, T’Nia Miller, Alex Price, Simon Bond and Douglas Fielding. We also see new faces like Rosie Jones, Toby Friedman, Kiza Deen, Grace Hogg-Robinson, Dino Kelly and Tom Hanson.
I don’t want to miss anyone out, but we are always so lucky to work with such great casts and it is always such a delight when actors want to come back again.
Is there a particular story from this series you enjoyed bringing to the screen?
I really enjoyed playing the cat-and-mouse scenes with Julian Rhind-Tutt in episode one, and the therapy scenes in the second episode which I found emotionally challenging. There were fun and surprising scenes to play between Nikki and Matt in episode three (and maybe later too – I don’t want to spoil anything!)
The final episodes had some challenging action scenes to play and I worked with an amazing horse – I genuinely sobbed my heart out because the horse was so good at acting! Most of all I love being back with the regulars Liz, David and Richard, and any scenes that we get to play together are probably my favourite.
INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD LINTERN
What stories can we expect from this series of Silent Witness?
This year’s Silent Witness has an amazing range of exciting stories which will take us into the minds of some highly dangerous individuals, malevolent organisations and even into the exalted arena of the American Embassy in London. Families will be torn apart, a care home appears to offer danger instead of refuge, and a highly complex data theft leads to deception and ultimately murder. As always, the body in post mortem at the Lyell speaks volumes and leads the police investigation in thrilling and unexpected ways.
We see Thomas’s daughter appear for the first time, what can you tell us about her?
Rosie is a teenage girl whose parents have separated. She comes with all the complex emotional baggage that any teenager has, and then some more on top. She’s difficult, loving, vulnerable and hard as nails all at the same time. She’s a great character who bursts unexpectedly into life at the Lyell, which challenges Thomas to cope with an emotional firestorm in addition to his work on a complex investigation. Behind all her actions is a young girl looking to her dad for his love and attention.
Do you think it’s important that Silent Witness continues to portray topical storylines?
Silent Witness goes wherever the great stories are hiding. Sometimes that takes us into the mind of a serial killer, sometimes into the heart of a social issue. The vital thing for us is how the team at the Lyell react to the forensic discoveries that they make, and how they assist the police in bringing the criminals to justice. However, the show has never shied away from dealing with topical storylines and this year is certainly no exception.
Is Thomas surprised to see Nikki back at the Lyell so soon after Mexico?
Thomas is delighted to see Nikki alive and well and back in England. Like the rest of the team, he’s concerned that her professionalism and sense of duty have brought her back to work too early after the trauma of Mexico. However, he’s wise enough to know that she doesn’t respond well to being told what to do!
What qualities do you think each member of the team each brings to the Lyell?
All great teams add up to more than the sum of their parts and the Lyell centre is no exception. Thomas is in charge, and when necessary can lead from the front with assurance and power. Clarissa is a genius for looking sideways at forensic detail and coming up with ideas no-one else had considered. She is unflappable and tough, and combines her forensic expertise with a dark wit. Clarissa and Thomas carry out a lot of the forensic study at the Lyell Centre itself. Mostly, their role is to facilitate and analyse Nikki and Jack’s investigative forensic work and to coordinate the police response from a forensic standpoint.
Nikki and Jack can be relied on for persistence, their pursuit of the facts and their second-to-none forensic experience. Jack has a fearless approach to the darker side of police investigations and Nikki combines a similar strength with an understanding of the emotional impact of the crimes being looked into.
INTERVIEW WITH DAVID CAVES
How is Jack coping after his experiences in Mexico?
To begin with, he’s not coping very well. He is feeling low and guilty because he could not save Nikki. This causes some tension between them. He is shy and awkward around her and can barely look her in the eye. He feels he failed her. He tries to distance himself from her because he feels so useless and it’s unbearable for him. She tries to reach him but he’s emotionally unavailable.
Jack appears to have a love interest in one block this series, what can you tell us about her?
He works closely with a detective on a case and there is an attraction. They flirt a bit but mainly enjoy working together.
Jack is also back boxing this series. Was that fun to film?
We see him training himself and someone else in the gym. He does mixed martial arts and boxing is definitely a part of that, but by no means it all. Actors generally love the physical stuff because it’s immediately dynamic and you have a very strong, simple action to play. For example, my fist must connect with this punch bag, or I must get this series of moves right with my partner in the scene. It’s always great to film. Plus, it’s so integral to who Jack is. Fighters have a very particular mindset and discipline which I love to get into when playing the part. He’s a doer and I like that he gets stuff done.
Are there any episodes you are particularly looking forward to watching this series?
All of them but especially One Day, which takes place in and around two care homes and feature Clarissa and Jack in a big way. We get more of a glimpse into their relationship and I think it’s a fantastic story. People might be shocked but hopefully impressed that we tackled the difficult subject matter head-on. Liz is outstanding in it.
INTERVIEW WITH LIZ CARR
Are there any stories this series you are particularly proud to be telling?
There is a block called One Day that are episodes we’ve been trying to make for a long time – particularly by myself and the writer Tim Prager who introduced Clarissa and Jack into Silent Witness six series ago. The subject is close to both of our hearts, which is disability hate crime. In the five years since Tim first pitched this theme it has, upsettingly, only become more prevalent. It’s a story that hasn’t been told on TV before and to be part of this has been a great honour. I’m immensely proud of the resulting episodes and hope it both entertains and provokes discussion when it’s aired.
Is Clarissa surprised to see Nikki back at the Lyell so soon after Mexico?
Clarissa obviously worries about Nikki, knowing she’s been through such a life-changing time in Mexico, but she isn’t a sentimental person. She’s a pragmatist who realises that people heal and deal with trauma in their own way. I think she’s initially surprised but ultimately knows that coming back to work is a very Nikki thing to do.
Max is back this series! Did you find there was a good reaction from fans when they found more about Clarissa’s personal life?
This time last year I was really eager to see what the audience would think of Clarissa’s husband, not least because I’d played a part in the writing and casting of Dan Weyman as Max. I really hoped we’d got it right as it was important to me to show a disabled woman in a good, long term, loving relationship, which is something we don’t see enough of on TV and something I never saw on screen when I was growing up. I’m thrilled Max is back and equally thrilled the audience seemed to approve of the other man in Clarissa’s life!
What qualities do you think each member of the team each brings to the Lyell unit?
Nikki has so much heart. Perhaps too much at times, but her keen sense of justice and her integrity and humanity make her strong and vulnerable in equal measure. Jack is brilliant at his job, single minded, and whilst he doesn’t suffer fools gladly he is intensely loyal to those he respects. Thomas’s mind is sharp with necessary diplomacy and has a strong faith in his team even if he doesn’t always approve of their methods or actions. Clarissa has intelligence, common sense and a down-to-earth sense of humour which are integral to how she does her job and how she lives her life.
Last year was Silent Witness’s 20th Anniversary. Were you happy with the reaction from fans, particularly to the Mexico episodes?
More than ever, I get stopped in the street with people desperate to know if Nikki survived Mexico, if there will be another series, if anyone be killed off and if will there be more Clarissa. Viewers are so invested in the characters and the stories. It’s always fun being able to reassure them that Nikki survived, that there’ll be another series and that there will more Clarissa than ever before in this series. However, as for anyone being killed off, I couldn’t possibly comment!